WEST HOLLYWOOD—A man agrees to plead guilty to federal criminal charges levied against him that he sold fake art he claimed was created by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.
Philip Righter, 43, sold fake art and used fake paintings as collateral for loans on which he later defaulted, as well as used fraudulent pieces for fraudulent write-offs on his income tax returns. Righter, of West Hollywood, was charged on Wednesday, March 11 with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud. He will plead guilty to the three felony offenses in a plea agreement.
Righter’s crimes sought to scam victims out of over $6 million and he caused losses of at least $758,265. Additionally, his fraudulent tax returns cost the United States more than $100,000, according to the plea agreement. His scam ran from 2016 until mid-2018, where he tried “proving” his fake art through false documents he created himself. Once he began being investigated, he stopped using his name to sell the art and fraudulently used others names without consent.
Additionally, Righter obtained and attempted to obtain numerous loans by using the fraudulent art and accompanying fraudulent provenance documents. In October 2016, using another person’s name without consent, Righter contacted a victim about a loan in which a purported original drawing by Basquiat would be used as collateral. He created a fraudulent certificate of authentication letter that purportedly came from Basquiat’s estate.
The victim wired a $24,000 loan, on which Righter later defaulted. After Righter’s default, the victim attempted to auction the piece, but the auction house determined the piece was fraudulent, and the victim lost $24,000.
Righter admitted he knowingly included a false W-2 and a false donation of fraudulent art to a charity on his 2015 federal income tax return, which resulted in him fraudulently receiving a refund of $54,858. Righter signed and filed a false 2015 amended tax return, which claimed a false casualty and theft loss of $2,575,000 related to artwork he claimed had been stolen. In truth, the artwork was fraudulent and had no value. This false amended tax return resulted in false loss refunds for 2012, 2013 and 2014 totaling $52,485.
Once he enters guilty pleas to all three charges, Righter will face a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison. In addition, he currently faces charges in the Southern District of Florida for an approximately $1 million attempted art fraud on the Miami gallery. A hearing in that case is scheduled for March 11.